Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Dr. Weizmann and World Leadership

July 16, 1933
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

To the Editor of the Jewish Daily Bulletin,

Mr. Morris Rothenberg’s statement in Thursday morning’s Bulletin is an apt example of that demand for a state in which all minds must bend to one which some Zionists have maintained since 1920, and which has become popular in many countries. The “other” opinion is damned because it differs. Mr. Rothenberg and his friends were playing politics in the interest of the Weizmann candidacy since January. It was a perfectly obvious play. It necessitated the abandonment of an all-Palestine conference which was under discussion with the platform now adopted, it compelled the changing of the date and place of the convention, and it forced the postponement of the elections for the world congress delegates to this Sunday. There is nothing wrong in Mr. Rothenberg being a partisan, and I know of no crime involved in his attempt, and that of others to plan to win.

Dr. Weizmann wants to be the world Zionist leader. He wanted the office even after the adverse vote in Basle in 1931, and between the election of Mr. Sokolow and the election of the Executive. The ambition is itself a laudable one, and the campaign to rally support began many months ago, and was a perfectly obvious one; whether it will succeed or fail should be clear by the end of August. One of my objections to Dr. Weizmann is the silly mystery with which at each congress he surrounds the campaign for office, and one of the great difficulties experienced in co-operating here in America with Mr. Rothenberg and his associates is that they make themselves the chief exponents of the artifices of all this “I will I won’t,” and its concomitants, indirection. etc.

I oppose the Weizmann leadership because I believe him to be a defeatist. That in my judgment has been his one consistent attitude since 1920. He emphasized that in 1929, 1930, and 1931. The attitude reflects itself naturally in all his practical policies. It exhibit itself ### the approach to the Mandatory power, and his conception of the work in Palestine. It exhibited it self in the most important speech he delivered in the United States at the banquet held in Chicago in connection with the convention and the pageant, as it exhibited itself in the first utterance Dr. Weizmann gave out for publication when he stepped ashore in New York. From hitherto avowed supporters of Dr. Weizmann I have been volunteered the information that Dr. Weizmann took at that banquet the exact opposite line to the Z.O.A. program that he warned the Zionists not even to dream of changing the status of Trans-Jordan, that he opposed the growth of Haifa and Tel Aviv, that he manifested a keen preference for small colonies in the Emek, etc., etc. Those who told me of this expressed their distress, and related the distress of other earnest Weizmann supporters. From other sources I was told that this defeatist speech was suppressed from publication. As I was not at Chicago I publicly inquired as to its contents at the Regional meeting held Tuesday evening at the Hotel Pennsylvania. I received two answers publicly, one from Abraham Goldberg, that he preferred to quote another speech of Weizmann. The other from Louis Lipsky was that Weizmann is not to be regarded as the exponent of Zionist ideology nor of policies or programs, but that he must be forced—I know not by whom—to take his place as a great doer for Zionism.

In no other country does the Weizmann issue create the problem it does in the U.S.A., because whilst a mass of American Zionists have been educated to admire him most intensely and sincerely, their admiration is largely for a figment of press agents and publicity men The American Zionists, as the resolutions which make the American program indicate, are maximum Zionists. The meetings of the Administrative Committee during the past year exhibited this to a marked degree. Two men as far as I can recall—Dr. S. Bernstein and B. Shelvin—stood hard and fast by the contrary program and lost none of my esteem in supporting the A’had Ha’am theories and the Weizmann practises, much as I disagree with both. I suppose there are some people who approve the Rooseveltian “new deal”, but would have preferred Hoover putting it in operation. That Hoover could not because his mind works in an entirely contrary direction is probably beyond their comprehension, but to the mass of simple Americans the men express their policies, and the policies express the men.

As I left the meeting on Tuesday evening someone observed to me: “We were all against the Jewish Agency in 1927.” To which I answered “then why did you vote for it?” The response was pat: “We had to support Weizmann.” This is Mr. Rothenberg’s difficulty at this time; the conflict between man and ideas will not bear criticism or even discussion.

Yours very truly,

(Signed) Jacob De Haas.

To the Editor of the Jewish Daily Bulletin,

Many of those unable to attend the Chicago Zionist Convention look with disapproval upon the direct and indirect efforts, as evidenced in Mr. Rothenberg’s letter in the Jewish Daily Bulletin of Thursday, to restore Dr. Weizmann to the leadership of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. It is one thing to include Dr. Weizmann in a coalition Executive and another to make him President of the W.Z.O. and the Agency. thus placing him in control of Zionist policy.

Hosts in this country and abroad oppose Dr. Weizmann’s return to leadership because Palestine has made immensely gratifying progress since the Basle Congress of 1931 when Dr. Weizmann was retired from the Zionist Presidency. The obstacles which Dr. Weizmann and his lieutenants for more than twelve years placed in the way of a sound economic program for the upbuilding of Palestine were removed by the choice of the new Executive without him. In his addresses and interviews Dr. Weizmann has given no praise to the work of this new Executive but has implied that the credit for the advances since 1931 is due to him.

Dr. Weizman has shown himself either incapable or unwilling, despite his eminence as a Jewish leader, to understand and carry into fulfilment the economic policies by which Palestine is becoming increasingly populated with self-supporting Jews. To re-trust leadership to him would threaten Zionist progress; it would undermine the “new deal” in Zionism initiated at Basle in 1931; it would bedevil the entire movement with Dr. Weizmann’s defeatism and his minimalist presentation of Zionist aims; it would create dissension in Zionist ranks; it would lead the Mandatory Power to believe that Zionists are content to re-accept as leader a man who has whittled down pristine Herzlian Zionism, and who has placed his name to documents hurtful to our cause. Dr. Weizmann’s policies reached their culmination in the setbacks of 1929 and 1930, and the last two years have been marked by the necessity or repairing the damage done previously.

Mr. Rothenberg scolds Dr. Weizmann’s critics for not emulating his loyalty in traveling widely to raise funds “which enabled his successors in office to carry on their labors” (sic). May we remind Mr. Rothenberg, Dr. Weizmann and his advocates that after Cleveland in 1921, the leaders of the Administration which was then retired because of economic policies which after 1931 were at last permitted to come into their own with the official cooperation of the W.Z.O., formed the Palestine Development Council and engaged in other activities on behalf of Palestine’s economic growth, until after nine years, they were summoned again to the headship of American Zionism. The effort to cast discredit upon this group in which Mr. Szold and others who share his viewpoint have been active for years, under the specious plea that Palestine is not developing according to the ideals of social justice because private investment and initiative are being fostered, deliberately ignores the influence of the illustrious jurist and economist whose judicial decisions are the cornerstone of the “new deal” in American political-economic life. The “social justice” argument of Dr. Weizmann’s journalistic and convention adherents is merely a “red herring” drawn across the trail.

The resolution expressing the sentiment of many delegates at Chicago in favor of Dr. Weizmann was passed, I understand, without an opportunity for debate after half the delegates had gone and in the closing hours of the Convention. The debate on Dr. Weizmann would have brought forth facts which would undoubtedly have altered many votes. Whatever the outcome may have been, even after a thorough debate, Zionist Conventions have been known to be unwise in their votes, the Pittsburg sessions being a classic example.

Dr. Weizmann’s re-election would be hurtful to the movement, and he would render his best service to it if he would step aside and quench the activity of his champions. He represents an economic order in Zionism which has had its day and has proved inadequate. The economic program of the last two years has brought prestige to Zionism, to Jewry, and new hope to stricken Israel. Only in terms of the work of the new Executive must the forthcoming World Zionist Congress shape its policies and select its personnel. Mr. Rothenberg and other American delegates to the Congress would do well to remember this.


Rabbi Louis I. Newman.

Recommended from JTA